Our Team

Zul Merali
Director

Dr Zul Merali is the Founding Director of the Brain and Mind Institute at the Aga Khan University.  He is a neuroscientist and pharmacologist by training (McGill University, University of Ottawa and Wharton), with over 40 years of academic engagement.  Has published over 250 peer-reviewed scientific publications. He has used his proven academic and entrepreneurial ability to add value to forward thinking organizations to help address the mental health problem, locally, nationally and globally. His objectives have been to build and/or re-engineer organizations to deliver outstanding results and motivating and encouraging others towards positive change.


Lukoye Atwoli
Associate Director

Prof Atwoli is the Dean of the Medical College, East Africa and a Professor in Psychiatry. He has a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from Moi University.  His residency (Master of Medicine) in Psychiatry was undertaken at the University of Nairobi.  Dr Atwoli has a PhD from the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.  He is a Visiting Scientist at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and an Honorary Associate Professor at the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of Cape Town.  He is an international Faculty member at the Global Health Institute, Duke University and an external examiner for multiple universities. Read more 


Diana MacKay
Global Practice Lead, Institute Development and Operations 

Diana MacKay serves as Special Advisor to the Provost at Aga Khan University and as Global Practice Lead for the Brain and Mind Institute and the Institute for Global Health and Development.  

Diana spent ten years with the World Bank in Washington D.C. during the reforms and restructuring brought on by globalization in the mid-1990s and leading to the Human Development Network which managed lending operations in education, health and social protection. She worked in Japan’s private sector as the sole foreign woman working within a traditional Japanese manufacturing firm of 3000 employees.  

For more than a decade at The Conference Board of Canada, Diana led a research portfolio in education, health, housing, and immigration. She established the Centre for Skills and Post-Secondary Education, National Immigration Centre, and the Saskatchewan Institute.  She managed the Roundtable on Socio-Economic Determinants of Health, the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management, the Canadian Centre for Environmental Health, and the Centre for Health System Design and Management.  

She has extensive experience with the Canadian university system, including at the Canadian Bureau for International Education, as leader of the Quality Network for Universities, and in a ground-breaking role at Carleton University, where she was the Executive Director of the Global Academy.  She was invited to serve as the first Visiting Fellow at the Canada School of Public Service.

Diana earned a BA from Wellesley College, incorporating a year at Tokyo’s Waseda University followed by employment for several years in a Japanese manufacturing firm. She is fluent in Japanese. Diana has a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. She has the designation as a certified Chartered Director from The Directors College, a joint venture of McMaster University and The Conference Board of Canada.  She has served on numerous boards, chaired the Board of Food Banks Canada, and helped found Rideau Bridge to Canada, a Syrian refugee sponsorship group.


Ciru Kamanda
Office Manager

Ms. Ciru Kamanda (Wanjiru Nancy) joined the Aga Khan University’s (AKU) Brain and Mind Institute (BMI) in March 2021 in the capacity of an Office Manager, where she provides high quality administrative, project management leadership and support in the BMI Director’s Office. Prior to joining the BMI, she served in an administrative capacity at the AKU Faculty of Health Sciences Research Office, as an Administrative Officer from November 2011 to January 2017 and subsequently as a Manager from February 2017. 

She has a wealth of expertise as an administration and research management professional, with specialized education coupled with work experience in Office Operations, Research and Grants Management, as well as Institutional Review Board (IRB) Administration. Academically, she has a Masters in Project Planning and Management, combined with local and international continuous professional development in office and programs management. 


Nsinazo Warrakah
Communications Specialist

Nsinazo Warrakah is a development economist shining the spot light on the importance of addressing mental health as a key factor to sustainable livelihoods. Her track record of enabling inclusion through policy formulation and communication is drawn from her experience as a professional in financial inclusion policy formulation in Central Bank of Kenya. 

Prior to joining AKU, Ms. Nsinazo’s professional experience was in the financial services industry and later in media and communications, where she joined Southern Hills Development Agency, a non-profit organization, to set up Radio Kaya. Over the years, she has developed extensive skills in effective communication channels including managing campaigns through a data-driven analysis approach. 

She holds a Master of Science degree in Development Finance, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Sociology. She has pursued several professional development courses relating to Leadership and Board Competence.


Esther Nzuki,
Administrative Assistant

Esther Nzuki has a wealth of experience in the areas of administrative support, human resource management and business development. Her professional experience spans over 5 years and she is well conversant with the institution and its operations. 

Esther holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree specializing in Human Resource Management from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Kenya and a Higher Diploma in Human Resource Management from the College of Human Resource Management (CHRM), Kenya.  She is also a Member of the Institute of Human Resource Management (IHRM), Kenya.


Olivera Nesic-Taylor, 

Consultant, Neuroscientist 

Dr Nesic-Taylor holds a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Belgrade (Yugoslavia) and has been a neuroscience researcher and medical educator in Yugoslavia, Canada, Germany, and for the past 22 years in the ​United States. She has held tenured faculty positions at different medical schools, including the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, the Texas Tech Paul Foster School of Medicine at El Paso, and the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. She has also served as Associate Dean of Biomedical Science, Sam Houston State College of Osteopathic Medicine, and Chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Houston College of Medicine, USA, where she held the Cullen Endowed Chair of Biomedical Sciences. She has been the principal investigator for a number of American federally funded research grants. 

As a researcher with 38 peer-reviewed articles and over 2,000 citations, she was awarded the Eric Nader award for breakthrough research in the field of spinal cord injury by the American Association for Spinal Injury. As an awarded medical educator, Dr Nesic-Taylor created interactive sessions with a strong emphasis on the blending of basic and clinical sciences, aimed at improving clinical reasoning skills among medical students, as well as instilling the relevance of basic sciences for students’ future clinical practice. In addition, Dr Nesic-Taylor has developed novel integrated medical neuroscience courses, including a psychiatric neuroscience educational module for undergraduate medical students and psychiatry residents.


Amadi Ihunwo,
Neuroscientist​

Prof Ihunwo holds a PhD in Anatomy from Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Uganda, Master of Science in Anatomy, University of Calabar, Nigeria, and Bachelor of Medical Sciences (Hons) Anatomy, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. He is a Professor of Anatomy and a Neuroscientist at the School of Anatomical Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg,  South Africa, where he is also the immediate past Head of the Morphological Anatomy Division. He leads research in Comparative Adult Neurogenesis and Gliogenesis on brains of mammalian and avian species including factors affecting life-history changes. Prof Ihunwo was the Head of the Department of Anatomy, Histology & Embryology (2000 to 2005), and Associate Dean (2003 – 2005), Faculty of Medicine at Mbarara University of Science & Technology, Mbarara, Uganda. He completed the prestigious Switzerland-South Africa Joint Research Programme (SSAJRP) as Principal Investigator (2009 to 2014). Prof Ihunwo has supervised several MSc and PhD candidates to completion and has several publications in peer-reviewed journals. He is a recipient of research and excellence awards at Wits University and is a Visiting Professor to other universities in Africa. Further, he is the Secretary-General/CEO of the Society of Neuroscientists of Africa (SONA; 2017-2021). Prof Ihunwo represents Africa on the Council of the International Society for Neurochemistry (ISN; 2021-2025).


Kendi Muchungi,
Instructional Designer, Blended and Digital Learning

Dr Muchungi is an Instructional Designer in Blended and Digital Learning with the Brain and Mind Institute (BMI), in partnership with the Network of Quality, Teaching and Learning, at the Aga Khan University. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the Africa Nazarene University, Kenya and a Masters and PhD degree (with Distinction) in Computational Neuroscience from University of Surrey, United Kingdom. In addi​tion, she holds a postgraduate Diploma in Advanced Web Development in E-Business from Humber College, Canada.  

Prior to joining Aga Khan University, Dr Muchungi gained expertise as the Communications and Technology Lead for the partnership ‘Transforming Employability for Social Change in East Africa’ (TESCEA). She was a Lecturer and Programme Leader at Africa Nazarene University, where she introduced new pedagogies for curriculum efficacy in a technology-centric environment. Dr Muchungi’s diverse wealth of experience includes emerging technologies, neuroscience, design and development of pragmatic solutions in curriculum.​


Linnet Ongeri,
Suicide Prevention Scientist

Dr Ongeri is a psychiatrist and a scientist in the final stage of completing her PhD in suicidal behaviour among persons with psychotic disorders at Vrije University in the Netherlands. She holds a Master of Medicine degree in Psychiatry and a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery from the University of Nairobi, 2011 and 2006, respectively. Her expertise includes clinical research and development, public health and epidemiology, policy formulation, data analysis, and monitoring and evaluation. Her research interest is in designing and implementing appropriate cultural and regional research models that integrate mental health in primary health care.

Currently, Dr Ongeri heads the mental health division at the Centre for Clinical Research in KEMRI. She is a member of the Taskforce on Mental Health in Kenya and collaborates with and guides the Ministry of Health Technical Working Group at the national and county level. She is also an investigator on several studies that include: 1) testing strategies for integrating non-specialist delivery of evidence-based interventions for depression and/or trauma-disorder with primary care services at public sector hospitals; and 2) analysing neuropsychiatric genetics of African populations. The latter is funded by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. She has been a co-investigator in other studies exploring psychotherapy for HIV+ women affected by gender based violence, prevalence of post-partum depression among women attending selected maternal and child health clinics, and mental health assessment in primary care facilities.​​


Edna Bosire,

Medical Anthropologist

Dr Edna Bosire holds a Masters Degree in Medical Anthropology from the University of Nairobi, Kenya and a PhD in Medical Anthropology and Public Health from the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.  

Currently, she is a postdoctoral research scientist for the Blantyre Prevention Strategy (BPS) at Georgetown University, Centre for Innovation in Global Health (USA) & Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (formerly College of Medicine), Malawi. She is also a researcher at the Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit (DPHRU) and School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, where she holds an honorary appointment.

Her research interests are in health systems strengthening in Africa, HIV/AIDS, Diabetes, Mental health and Nutrition. She has used various anthropological, public health and implementation science theories and frameworks to design and implement health research projects in urban poor settings in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and Malawi. Dr Bosire has extensive experience working with policy makers and key decision makers in translating evidence / research into actions, with the aim of improving public and population health.

In 2019, she was appointed by the Health Systems Global for the Women Mentorship Programme​, and in 2021, she was appointed as an Academic Editor​ for the Plos Global Public Health Journal. Dr Bosire also teaches and mentors postgraduate students. Edna has published​ over widely in international peer reviewed journals.